Some believe that crude oil is this world’s most valued and influential commodity.
Not I. I fall firmly in the group of people who believe that Olive Oil has done more for our world than crude oil ever will. Humanity has been using olive oil as food, cosmetics, religious tools, cleansers and lighting fuel since 5000 BC. How long has crude oil been an influential liquid?
Olive oils came from the Mediterranean area. Specifically it’s difficult where to figure out who, exactly, figured out you could do so much with the oil, but we’re pretty sure it was the greeks who made olive oil commercially available to the masses. They were so dependant upon olive oil for their economy that in the 6th century BC, Solon, the great Athenian legislator, drafted laws protecting the olive tree, hoping to ensure that no one would cut down the trees intentionally.
Did I mention the virgins before? I don’t think so.
It is said that in ancient Greece, on some olive farms, only virgins could pick the olives, probably under the idea that an unsullied person could treat a fruit better than someone who has gotten some. *shrug* All I know is that 90% of my high school class could have never worked as an olive picker in Ancient Greece.
Here in America, we’re weren’t much of an olive oil nation until we started getting immigrants from the Meditteranean in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. Before that, we were pretty much a “Lard” and “butter” country, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s nice to have options. However, in the 1700s, it was the Franciscan missionaries brought the first olive trees to the new world, placing them throughout Mexico and what is now California. So when the Italian and Greek immigrants began demanding olive oil, there were already resources to draw from at a much lower cost than if they were to import it all the way from Italy, Spain or Greece.
Olive oil is probably the fat that I cook with most often. So expect a few extra notes and recipes about this topic over the next week or so.